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Hamilton County judge orders man to get COVID-19 shot as condition of probation

Brandon Rutherford
Posted at 6:41 PM, Aug 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-06 11:13:23-04

CINCINNATI — Brandon Rutherford wore a face mask Wednesday as he stood in front of a Hamilton County judge to be sentenced for his recent drug conviction.

"I had the mask on because I heard the COVID numbers were back up," Rutherford told the WCPO 9 I-Team.

Rutherford, 21, said Common Pleas Court Judge Christopher Wagner asked him questions.

"He asked me, was I vaccined?" Rutherford said. "I told him no. And he asked me if I planned to get vaccined, and I told him no."

Rutherford said that's when Wagner ordered him to get a COVID-19 vaccine shot within two months as a condition of Rutherford's community control, which is often called probation.

"I don't plan on getting it. I don't want it," Rutherford said. "So, for him to tell me that I have to get it in order for me to not violate my probation is crazy because I'm just trying to do what I can to get off this as quickly as possible, like finding a job and everything else, but that little thing can set me back."

Rutherford's attorney, Carl Lewis, stood next to his client during sentencing.

"When you hear that, you're like, 'Whoa, I don't think the judges are within their powers to do that,'" Lewis said.

Lewis told the I-Team this is the first time he's heard of a Hamilton County judge ordering someone to get the COVID vaccine.

On Rutherford's court papers, there's a question mark next to the judge's requirement for Rutherford to get vaccinated.

"If he truly believes that he's within authority to order the individual to get a vaccine, then we'll have a legal issue to address," Lewis said.

The I-Team sent the judge's staff an email and left two phone messages requesting comment on the court order, but they did not respond.

"It's not like I'm out here getting into any more trouble or anything like that," Rutherford said. "But because I don't take a shot, they can send me to jail. I don't agree with that."